Library of Congress


The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Presentations and Activities > Timeline
Timeline Home Page
The New Nation
The United States Constitution
Draft of a Constitution

The new constitution went through several drafts. Following are excerpts of a draft of the document just a month and a half before the final document was completed. Compare the language of the excerpts below with similar sections of the Constitution in its final form (virtually every U.S. history or American government textbook contains a copy). The final document was much shorter than the draft. Why do you think the framers of the Constitution eventually thought less was better than more? What possible strengths and potential problems might a brief constitution cause compared to a much longer and more detailed one?

View more of the August 6, 1787 draft of the Constitution from A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation, 1774-1873. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.

" We , the people of the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, do ordain, declare, and establish, the following Constitution for the government of ourselves and our posterity:--

" Art. I. The style of this government shall be, "The United States of America."

" Art. II. The government shall consist of supreme legislative, executive, and judicial powers.

" Art. III. The legislative power shall be vested in a Congress, to consist of two separate and distinct bodies of men, a House of Representatives and a Senate, each of which shall, in all cases, have a negative on the other. The legislature shall meet on the first Monday in December every year. . . .

" Art. IX. Sect. 1. The Senate of the United States shall have power to make treaties, and appoint ambassadors, and judges of the Supreme Court. . . .

" Art. X. Sect. 1. The executive power of the United States shall be vested in a single person. His style shall be, "The President of the United States of America;" and his title shall be, "His Excellency," He shall be elected by ballot by the legislature. He shall hold his office during the term of seven years, but shall not be elected a second time.

" Sect. 2. He shall, from time to time, give information to the legislature of the state of the Union. He may recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient. He may convene them on extraordinary occasions. In cases of disagreement between the two houses with regard to the time of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as be thinks proper. He shall take care that the laws of the United States be duly and faithfully executed. He shall commission all the officers of the United States, and shall appoint officers in all cases not otherwise provided for by this Constitution. He shall receive ambassadors, and may correspond with the supreme executives of the several states. He shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons; but his pardon shall not be pleadable in bar of an impeachment. He shall be commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states. He shall, at stated times, receive for his services a compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during his continuance in office. Before he shall enter on the duties of his department, he shall take the following oath or affirmation: "I,--, solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States of America." He shall be removed from his office on impeachment by the House of Representatives, and conviction in the Supreme Court, of treason , bribery, or corruption. In case of his removal as aforesaid, death, resignation, or disability to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the president of the Senate shall exercise those powers and duties until another President of the United States be chosen, or until the disability of the President be removed.

" Art. XI. Sect. 1. The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as shall, when necessary, from time to time, be constituted by the legislature of the United States.

" Sect. 2. The judges of the Supreme Court, and of the inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behavior. They shall, at stated times, receive for their services a compensation which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.

" Sect. 3. The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court shall extend to all cases arising under laws passed by the legislature of the United States; to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls; to the trial of impeachments of officers of the United States; to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; to controversies between two or more states, except such as shall regard territory or jurisdiction; between a state and citizens of another state; between citizens of different states; and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens, or subjects. In cases of impeachment, cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, this jurisdiction shall be original. In all the other cases before mentioned, it shall be appellate, with such exceptions and under such regulations as the legislature shall make. The legislature may assign any part of the jurisdiction above mentioned, (except the trial of the President of the United States,) in the manner, and under the limitations, which it shall think proper, to such inferior courts as it shall constitute from time to time.

" Sect. 4. The trial of all criminal offences (except in cases of impeachments) shall be in the state where they shall be committed, and shall be by jury.

" Sect. 5. Judgment, in cases of impeachment, shall not extend farther than removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit, under the United States. But the party convicted shall, nevertheless, be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment, and punishment, according to law.

" Art. XII. No state shall coin money; nor grant letters of marque and reprisal; nor enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; nor grant any title of nobility.

" Art. XIII. No state without the consent of the legislature of the United States, shall emit bills of credit, or make any thing but specie, a tender in payment of debts; lay imposts or duties on imports; nor keep troops or ships of war in time of peace; nor enter into any agreement or compact with another state, or with any foreign power; nor engage in any war, unless it shall be actually invaded by enemies, or the danger of invasion be so imminent as not to admit of a delay until the legislature of the United States can be consulted. . . .

" Art. XXIII. To introduce this government, it is the opinion of this Convention, that each assenting Convention should notify its assent and ratification to the United States in Congress assembled; that Congress, after receiving the assent and ratification of the conventions of states, should appoint and publish a day, as early as may be, and appoint a place for commencing proceedings under this Constitution; that, after such publication, the legislatures of the several states should elect members of the Senate, and direct the election of members of the House of Representatives; and that the members of the legislature should meet at the time and place assigned by Congress, and should, as soon as may be, after their meeting, choose the President of the United States, and proceed to execute this Constitution."
top of page

View more of the August 6, 1787 draft of the Constitution from A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation, 1774-1873. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.